On Wednesday, Nov. 22, Princeton men’s basketball (6–0 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) continued their red-hot form with a dominant display on the road against the Old Dominion Monarchs (2–3 overall, 0–0 Sun Belt). On Saturday, they followed up this victory with another win over the Northeastern Huskies (3–4 overall, 0–0 Colonial Athletic Association Conference) during their first home game of the season. These wins bring the Tigers to 6–0 for the season, their best start since their 7–0 start in 1997–98.
Princeton dominates Old Dominion with four double-digit scorers
The win over the Monarchs made Princeton the only unbeaten NCAA Division I men’s team in the country which had not played a home game. All the games so far for men’s basketball were played away or at neutral locations.
“The game went really well,” sophomore forward Caden Pierce told The Daily Princetonian. “This was a game for us which could have been a trap game, we had a really long bus ride yesterday, since it was six [or] seven hours from Princeton, but the team came out ready to play which was really important for us.”
This first ever matchup between the Tigers and Monarchs saw Princeton hand Old Dominion their first home loss of the season. A fairly slow start saw Old Dominion maintain a lead until back-to-back-to-back three point jumpers by Princeton with 13:47 on the clock gave them their first lead of the game, 14–12.
The Monarchs, however, quickly responded and hit their own three point jump shot to bring it back to 15–14.
Sophomore guard Xaivian Lee broke a streak of Monarch free throw points with a reverse layup to make the score 19–17.
Tiger fans didn’t see much of Lee last season, as he averaged 13.4 minutes per game and scored in double-digits just four times. But after a summer with Team Canada’s U19 team and an opening in the Tigers’ starting lineup, Lee burst onto the scene. Lee is currently leading the Tigers in points at 18.8 per game, assists, and steals while shooting 50 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from behind the arc.
After a three from the Monarchs, Princeton went on an 8–0 run, forcing an Old Dominion timeout.
The Monarchs managed to get a jumper, finally scoring after four minutes. Two jumpers by Lee and Pierce gave Princeton their biggest lead of the game so far as they went up by 9 points to 31–22.
By this point, the Tigers had already out-rebounded the Monarchs 17–8 as they were clicking on the field and offensively avoiding the perimeter pressure. They kept up their aggressive defense, allowing Old Dominion no easy shots.
“We’re just clicking on that level, we’ve got really good chemistry right now,” Lee told the ‘Prince’ about the team. “When we’re all clicking, firing on all cylinders, I think we’re really hard to beat.”
Lee was still warming up his shooting and missed two jumper threes, allowing the Monarchs to hit a jumper and make a free throw as they closed down the score to 31–25.
In classic fashion, however, junior guard Blake Peters hit his fourth three-point jumper of the night, bringing his points total up to 12 with 3:09 left in the first half. Two free throws by sophomore guard Jack Scott once again gave Princeton their biggest lead of the game as they went up 36–25.
After a brief Old Dominion run, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 called a timeout with 6 seconds left in the half and Princeton up 36–30 to try and make a play. A foul brought Princeton up to the free throw line and Lee went one for two to close out the half with Princeton up 37–30.
At the half, Princeton was shooting 35 percent on threes to the Monarchs 50 percent, but crucially getting the shots off more often, giving them the scoring advantage. All of Peters’ 12 points by the half came off threes and he led the scoring with Lee’s 10 points coming in close.
Although the bench got some minutes, Scott’s two points were the only scores from the bench in the first half.
In the start of the second half, the potency of Princeton’s defensive capabilities was shown by the fact that the Monarchs took until then, with 17 minutes left in the second half, to get their first offensive rebound of the game.
A dunk and layup by Pierce and Lee respectively brought Princeton’s lead back into the double digits at 46–34. Pierce and Lee combined effectively for the dunk as Lee hung in the perimeter, catching the ball from Pierce before firing it back to him as he ran to the rim from the three-point line and got the score.
With 12:10 left on the clock, the Tigers capped off an 8–0 run with senior forward Zach Martini’s three, which followed a great passing sequence from Princeton on a perfectly executed play. Princeton took an 18-point lead in the game to continue their dominating form.
Another 6–0 run by Princeton forced Old Dominion to use a timeout with 7:15 in the second half. They made a three and a dunk in quick succession, which then forced a Princeton timeout. Princeton came out the gate with a Xaivian Lee three, more stout defense, and another three from Matt Allocco.
The Tigers brought the lead up to the biggest so far of the game at 20 points as they were now 68–48 with less than five minutes remaining. Allocco’s three brought him up to 11 points for him and 11 threes for Princeton.
Freshman guard Dalen Davis responded to a Monarchs’ three point jump shot with one of his own, scoring his first three-pointer with an excellent shot from the left side of the court.
Old Dominion attempted to speed Princeton up and turn them over, but a spread offense and good ball retention kept Princeton’s impressive offense in check. The teams then traded threes, ending the scoring at 76–56 after a dunk by sophomore forward Vernon Collins.
Lee’s 19 points led the game in scoring, but three other Tigers, Pierce, Peters, and Allocco, all got in double-digit scoring numbers with 13, 12, and 11 respectively. Pierce got his third double-double of the season with his points total and game-high of 13 rebounds.
“He’s an unbelievable player, lucky to have him on our team.” Pierce said to the ‘Prince’ about Lee. “He makes my job and everyone else’s job easy.”
“He really takes what the defense gives,” Pierce continued. “If he needs to score, he can score … he has done a great job of taking care of the ball and I’m really excited [to see] what’s in store for him.”
Allocco’s assist total of six was enough for a game-high whilst Martini was just out of the double digit points with nine, but he made five rebounds.
Princeton certainly seem to be on the up, and they are keen to continue their form from last season, which saw them make it to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since the new format was introduced in 1985.
With a 5–0 start and impressive displays across the team, the Tigers have every hope of trying to match last season’s success, even without the now graduated First Team All-Ivy player Tosan Evbuomwan ’23, starter Ryan Langborg ’23, and starter Keeshawn Kellman ’23. It’s early in the season, however, and the Tigers still have a lot to prove against tougher opponents.
“Our goal is to win every game, but to see that actually happening is really cool,” Lee told the ‘Prince’ about the team’s upcoming run. “It’s really fun to be competing, [and] going into every game knowing [we] have a great shot to win really motivates us.”
This Saturday, Nov. 25, the Tigers played at home for the first time this season against Northeastern (3–4 overall, 0–0 CAA). The winning streak will be on the line, as the Tigers will look to players like Lee, Pierce, and Allocco for their continued success.
“We’re really excited to get back to Jadwin,” Pierce told the ‘Prince’ about the matchup. “Northeastern is going to be a tough game as well. They’re always really good, really well coached so we’ve got our hands full with that one, [but] as I said we’re really excited to be back in Jawdin.”
Sophomore guard Xaivian Lee leads Tigers to victory over Northeastern, 80–66
Behind a 30-point eruption from standout Lee, his career-high, the Tigers displayed a strong team effort to secure a victory over the Northeastern Huskies.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair. Lee’s third three of the game gave the Tigers an 18–15 lead with 11:40 remaining before the break. Both defenses, however, began to tighten up after this point.
The Tigers managed just four more points heading into the final six minutes of the half, but an acrobatic and-one finish from Lee gave the Tigers a 25–21 lead with 5:54 remaining. Both teams then heated up, but the Tigers took a 35–30 lead into the break.
The second half was more of the same: The Huskies had no response for Lee. The Huskies were, however, led by an unlikely hero. Sophomore guard Harold Woods, who had a previous season high of 12 points, led the Huskies with 21 points off the bench.
After the Tigers started to pull away, an and-one from Woods brought the Tiger lead down to single digits with 9:51 remaining.
Back-to-back threes from the Huskies cut the Tiger lead all the way down to five with 4:42 remaining in the game, but heady guard play, ball security, and suffocating defense carried the Tigers to the finish line and Princeton won 80–66.
Turnovers and fouls proved decisive for the Tigers in this bout. Princeton won the turnover battle 6–12, and committed five fewer fouls than the Huskies. It was one of the cleanest games of the Tigers’ season.
While Lee undoubtedly stole the show, senior guard Matt Allocco, last week's Ivy League Player of the Week, added 18 points and six assists of his own. His assist total led the game, and he produced just one turnover as the Tigers primary ball-handler.
This Wednesday, Nov. 29 the Tigers are back on the road at the Bucknell Bison (2–6 overall, 0–0 Patriot League).
Diego Uribe is an associate editor for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’
Alex Beverton-Smith is a contributor to the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’
Please send corrections to corrections[at]princeton.edu.